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ACSA Urges Swift Reauthorization of ESEA, and Also Prepare State-Developed Flexibility Plan

November 3, 2011

In a letter dated October 27, the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) urged the immediate reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) “with the greatest amount of flexibility to states,” and as an alternative plan, recommended that California submit a flexibility plan to federal authorities no later than the end of the current school year.

The letter was addressed to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the State Board of Education. The text follows:

On behalf of more than 14,000 education leaders statewide we would like to share our position as it relates to California’s consideration of the recently proposed NCLB/ESEA Flexibility option, as well our view of the potential impact of recently introduced omnibus federal legislation by Senators Harkin (D-IA) and Enzi (R-WY). We look forward to discussing our recommendations with the State Board and Superintendent Torlakson in the coming weeks and months. During our recent visit to Washington D.C. we gathered important new insights into the proposed NCLB/ESEA Flexibility proposal as well as the Harkin/Enzi bill which was introduced while we were in Washington D.C.

As background, the State Board and Superintendent should be aware that ACSA’s formal position for the last three years has been a moratorium on all NCLB sanctions until the advent of a full ESEA reauthorization. We also recently joined with CSBA in a joint resolution calling for immediate regulatory relief for the 2011-2012 school year.

ACSA’s Board of Directors determined our current position based on the information available to ACSA regarding the NCLB/ESEA flexibility proposal and the Harkin/Enzi bill sent to the Senate floor. We based our position on three important goals:

  1. To follow the principles outlined in ACSA’s September 2011 Recommendations for the Reauthorization of ESEA.
  2. To ensure all opportunities and doors remain open to California and to recognize the timing of the political process in Washington D.C. requires careful consideration before committing to just one path.
  3. To not allow the politics of Washington D.C. to dictate what is good for California, rather California should submit recommendations and plans that meet the needs of our state, students and schools.

ACSA Recommendation

Part I
ACSA believes Congress should immediately reauthorize ESEA through legislation with the greatest amount of flexibility to states. The federal government should expect full accountability and transparency from states to ensure continuous student academic achievement growth for all students and student subgroups including closure of achievement gaps between student subgroups. Developing systems to ensure continuous student improvement should be left to the states.

Part II
In the event Congress does not reauthorize ESEA within the next six months either through the Harkin/Enzi Senate ESEA Reauthorization measure or other measures, ACSA recommends the state submit a NCLB/ESEA flexibility plan no later than the end of the 2011-2012 school year. This plan must be based on what California believes is in the best interest of our students and schools and not based on prescriptive conditions. This plan must be achievable through existing state and federal resources.

ACSA’s Recommendation for a California NCLB Flexibility Plan: Waivers and Assurances if Congress Fails to Reauthorize ESEA by the end of the 2011-2012 School Year.

Standards and Assessments

  1. The state and local education agencies (LEAs) shall agree to adopt college and career ready standards including English language proficiency standards and appropriate assessments that focus on essential standards and performance measures that prepare students for post-secondary education and viable careers.


  1. The state and LEAs shall agree to establish Annual Measureable Objectives (AMOs) to determine adequate yearly progress towards proficiency in all subjects assessed, utilizing California’s current Academic Performance Index (API) with the addition of graduation and dropout rates.
  2. The state shall identify the lowest performing 5% of schools and the lowest 10% of schools with the widest achievement gaps. Interventions shall be locally determined. LEAs shall conduct at least one public hearing prior to developing a support and intervention plan for the 15% of schools. This plan shall be submitted to the state for purposes of transparency. Support and interventions for all other Title I schools outside the 15% shall be determined by LEAs and shall not be submitted to the state.

Effective Teachers and Leaders

  1. LEAs shall commit to develop local criteria to strengthen teacher and principal evaluations to ensure high levels of student learning. Multiple measures shall be used and mutually agreed to by local governing boards, district and school administrators and teachers. Evaluations shall differentiate how to accelerate success, address professional development needs, or as necessary, intervene when there are persistent performance issues.

Quality Professional Development and Support for Teachers and Leaders

  1. The state and LEAs shall commit to provide available Title I and Title II resources including available funds from the 20% SES and tutoring set-aside funds, towards quality professional development for teachers and leaders.
  2. The state and LEAs shall commit to strengthening the induction stage in California’s principal and leader workforce by establishing clear, standards-based goals for induction programs including leadership coaching. The state and LEAs shall commit to strengthening professional development in order to support the capacity building of principals and other reviewers to conduct effective teacher and principal evaluations.

(The letter was signed by ACSA President Alice Petrossian and Executive Director Bob Wells.)

Source:  ACSA